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GVG Claims ‘Fantastic Support’ For Its Masterplan and Tackles Criticisms

Published on: 19 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 19 Mar, 2017

Aerial view of a new widened and raised Town Bridge, reopened to vehicle traffic, a crucial feature of the GVG plan and its diverted routing of town centre traffic. Images supplied by Leonard design (click to enlarge).

In an upbeat, repeat presentation of its Masterplan for Guildford town centre, leaders from the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) appeared to win over any doubters in the audience of 90 who had gathered at the University of Surrey on Wednesday (March 15).

But doubts expressed by some councillors and residents were also addressed.

Opening up the town’s riverfront is a central element of the GVG plan, as it was in the GBC town centre Masterplan.

Observers have sensed some straining of relations between Guildford Borough Council (GBC) following the group’s well received presentation in February and Tweets from GBC council leader Paul Spooner which questioned GVG chairman John Rigg’s links with his former employer, property company Savill’s.

Rigg, asked about the GVG-GBC relationship by a younger member of the audience, who described himself as a new resident of Guildford, impressed with the GVG plan, refused to be drawn into overt criticism of the borough council.

But the GVG chairman seemed keen to stress that he, and the other directors of GVG, had no property holdings in Guildford “…other than our own homes,” and after the presentation he said: “We have had a meeting with the council and remain hopeful of a constructive and progressive dialogue.”

A view looking east across the new bridge required by the GVG plan that would run from the York Road roundabout to an area near the end of Rupert Road, bottom right.

Another criticism levelled at the group in February, that the GVG Masterplan could cause planning blight in those areas earmarked for redevelopment, was addressed as a “frequently asked question”.

Julian Lyon, GVG director, said: “Our proposal is not a council proposal, and although it might be a bit blasé to say it, Guildford Borough Council are marketing a number of sites without taking account of what the surrounding neighbours have to say about what is proposed.

“There will be some effect on some residents. But we are putting things on a plan so we are in a position to show that it works, while the council would tend to do that behind closed doors and the blight would happen in a council sponsored time.

“This would require lots of consultation and obviously we would need the council on board. There are few private properties that are affected directly by this and there are processes for compensation.”

One particular concern about the impact on residents of Rupert Road residents of the new route was also mentioned. The proposed route had been slightly adjusted to give a bigger margin and allow screening with trees.

The reliance on “modal shift”, or more people turning to walking, cycling and public transport rather than private cars, was discussed. GVG believe that the council’s reliance on this is unrealistic in scale. Julian Lyon, who is also the Guildford Society chairman, explained that the GBC plans are depending on a modal shift of over 40% to maintain the current road capacity while the vision group’s plan only required a 16% change.

The new route taking traffic away from the town centre highlighted in red in this westward view of how the town could look

Architect David Leonard, whose company was responsible for the production of the plan, stressed that the opening up of the river and the diversion of traffic out of Onslow Street were both central to achieving the objectives of the Masterplan, allowing the creation of pedestrianised streets and new public spaces.

The aim of opening up the riverside, almost universally agreed as desirable, was discussed during the question and answer session. One questioner commented that further higher rise development could actually make the riverside feel more enclosed.

A higher level view of the River Wey corridor – the area on the far side of the river freed of traffic to allow pedestrianised streets and the creation of several public spaces.

In a show of hands at the end of the meeting, the audience seemed to almost unanimously agree that the presentation of the GVG plan had been a useful exercise and that the plan was exciting. It remains to be seen if the group was, on this occasion at least, preaching to the converted.

After the meeting John Rigg said: “We just keep getting fantastic support and feedback from the community and from other professionals. The plan is so easy to understand.

“People can see why it would work and how good the wins would be for the town centre. It really would make for a better Guildford and a better future. It’s all very exciting.”

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Responses to GVG Claims ‘Fantastic Support’ For Its Masterplan and Tackles Criticisms

  1. Andrew Whitby-Collins Reply

    March 19, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    The issue of what, if any, conflicts of interest exist for the directors of Guildford Vision Group is an important one that has yet to be properly addressed by the group. The fact that they do not have property holdings other than their own homes does not remove the potential for conflicts related to their current or former employers and clients to exist.

    An open register of any such conflicts would go some way to reassuring the public, who as Guildford taxpayers, will be expected to fund the as yet uncosted GVG plans, on this point.

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